Title: Dark Rise 1
Author: C.S. Pacat
Published: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Readership: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical
Content warnings: Death of parents, massacre, violence
I received a copy of Dark Rise from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The first book in a brilliant YA fantasy trilogy from internationally acclaimed Australian author CS Pacat.
The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember. For centuries they have kept vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.
Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run in London, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant urges him to seek out the Stewards, Will is ushered into a secret world, where he must train to fight for the Light in the oncoming war.
As the Dark King’s return looms, reborn warriors begin to draw battle lines. But when the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the calamity that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.
Dark Rise is the first book in a thrilling new YA fantasy series from bestselling Australian author CS Pacat.
Long-time readers of this blog will be scratching their heads wondering why I’m reviewing a young adult fantasy novel (after such a long time of not reviewing them)… I break all my own rules when it comes to Australian fiction. It’s possibly the national pride I feel to support Australian authors and their books, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to provide some exposure for C.S. Pacat’s most recent release. (Which, Happy Book Birthday, Dark Rise!) Now, I know that Pacat is a well-loved author, but this my first foray into their work and I have to say that I had an enjoyable time.
Will is a teen living and working on the docks of London, on the run from the men who killed his mother. He’s captured by a man called Simon, supposedly someone working to bring back the Dark Lord of old, and then rescued in turn by the Stewards, the guardians of the old ways and stories of magic. He’s trained by the Stewards to defeat the Dark Lord, but at what cost? And is everything as it seems?
I’ll admit, the thing I loved most about this book is the one thing I can’t talk about, because it’s the plot twist that I didn’t see coming and quite liked because of what it did.
That said, there’s plenty to like. This is a queer young adult fantasy story set in an alternate historical London, where magic has faded from the world. Only the Stewards and the heralds of the Dark Lord remember it, and how to harness the magical objects left in the world. This creates an interesting premise and also steeps the setting in a real-world-but-not-quite reality that makes is accessible and still fantastical.
Will is an interesting character, because he’s so surrounded by mystery. Despite being a POV character, we still get thrown curve-balls with each chapter and begin to sympathise with him for being so out of his depth and unaware of what’s going on. He finds a companion in Violet, a girl who’s initially on the opposing side to him, and together they’re trained by the Stewards and fight to prove their worth.
James was another interesting character for me – a servant of the Dark Lord who’s been reborn with tremendous and terrifying powers – he’s an antagonist, but even his story is not as simple as just that. In many ways, I was more fascinated by him than anyone else, because his history is so intertwined with the ‘big bad’ than anyone else.
There are a lot of Lord of the Rings references and call backs in this book, so if you know, you’ll spot them. Most of the time it was a really addition, although occasionally it did throw me out of the story because I was making the connection, so be aware of that going into it.
I am very curious to see where Pacat decides to take this story. Quite a lot happens at the end – and yes, it is a big of a cliffhanger ending – so I’ve been left intrigued!